Growing up in a small town, I often had to rely on acquaintances from bigger cities to introduce me to interesting music. One of the girls I met at a theater audition was from a nearby metropolis and, while I tried to emotionally navigate around the crush she had on me – compounded by my own mild confusion as to whether I was ever going to wake up one morning and discover that I liked both girls and boys, she filled me in on some of her favorite artists. Nik Kershaw was one of them – and within a year or two, I figured out that there was a reason why I would so often longingly gaze at his profile on his second LP, The Riddle. I wasn’t ever going to like any Becky…or, as in this particular case, any Camilla, as well.
Cheekbones aside, I also really dug Wouldn’t It Be Good, perhaps Kershaw’s biggest hit. Driving that point home, it was included on both his first and second album, and has also been featured in many film & television projects. One of the more interesting uses was in a Body Snatchers style television film called TheAnnihilator. Featuring Catherine Mary Stewart as a flesh and blood reporter turned into a mindless, assassinating robot, Kershaw’s tune was definitely in good company in this project. The other featured song was David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes.
Nicely, Kershaw, who is now working some silver daddy magic, is still creating music and performing live. More information is able at https://www.nikkershaw.net.
Just before my sophomore year of high school, I finally got my hair styled and my parents allowed me to get contact lenses. It felt like the whole world was opening up for me. Soon after that, I got the lead in the winter play, proof (I felt at the time) that change indeed was happening. As I was driven back and forth from rehearsals that late fall, Linda Ronstadt was continually, creamily crooning What’s New, the title track from her upcoming album of standards, on the car’s steadfast AM radio. I asked for the LP for Christmas that year.
I lovingly remember playing that recording in my grandparents’ living room as the family sat around listening to it and chatting. In an often turbulent youth, filled with familial misunderstandings and the wisps of angst seemingly floating around the surface of many of my first tentative interactions, this is one of my favorite memories. Ronstadt’s version of I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chancewas song that probably stood out the most for me then and now. Besides the supernatural element of the title, I always had the sneaking suspicion that romance would be elusive to me, that connecting with someone would perhaps be an awkward, unrealized proposition. It was also one of the tracks included on Jeff Alexander’s creepily arranged Alfred Hitchcock Presents album, Music to Be Murdered By.
While I adore Ronstadt’s moody treatment of the number, one of my favorite versions is a jazzier, breezier take by the incomparable Mildred Bailey. One of Bing Crosby’s favored colleagues, Bailey was a Native American jazz singer who made a stunning impression on the music industry. I wish she was more publicly acknowledged.
Of course, I’ve heard ignoring your first could prove to have disastrous consequences, so…
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!
I first got The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Rollas a confirmation present from one of my uncles. For awhile I carried it with me everywhere. A day or so after that confirmation, my parents came to pick me up from some event. I had been confirmed with one of my mom’s students and he overheard some of the other kids saying that I was gay in the parking lot afterwards. He told my mother about this…and she was furious…with me.
“Why would they say that, Brian?!?” “What have you done to make them think that?!?” “Do you know how embarrassing this is for me?!? For my own student to come to me about something like this?!?” As she hammered away at me on the car ride home, I murmured soft responses back while burying myself in this book., wanting to disappear. But as I poured over epic black and white photos of Little Richard, David Bowie, a pre-fame Aretha Franklin, a pert Annette Funicello clinging to a properly attired Dick Clark… I suddenly knew that eventually everything would be okay…that the world was full of magnificence and unusual artistry and someday…it all would be mine!
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan
Its the 16th of February. Candy hearts are half off at the Dollar Tree and the hint of consumerist love still drenches the air. Thus Always, Lana may be the perfect late weekend read. Written by Taylor Pero, a bisexual back-up singer who catered to both Lana Turner’s business and boudoir needs for 10 years, this slim tome details the latter day diva glazed romantic and professional antics of one of MGM’s comeliest stars.
Historically, I was first introduced to this book as a soap opera obsessed 14 year old. At the time, Lana was appearing on Falcon Crest and her character’s onscreen combativeness with Jane Wyman’s matriarchal lead fueled my love for show business. Thus, I asked for a bio on Turner for Christmas that year. With unknowing prescience, this was the volume that my parents picked out for me. (Of course, it very well may have been the only option available at the tiny Zayres book department in Jamestown, NY.) While I found myself both intrigued and repelled by Pero’s sexual exploits, its tales of Turner’s adventures on the summer stock circuit and infrequent film projects have remained as wispy, silver smoked memories in my consciousness over the decades since.
Revisiting the memoir this Valentine’s week, Pero’s economic exploitiveness here actually reads with a sense of sympathy and understanding for the star that he devoted himself to. Her eternal tardiness, precise self focus and obsession with her appearance are explained as being a product of a studio system that prized beauty and self deception over emotional and spiritual growth. The author also nicely details Turner’s humor and her ability to deal with the multiple disappointments that life brought down upon her shoulders.
Nicely, one disenchantment that is given prime focus here is Persecution (AKA The Terror of Sheba), the one true Gothic Horror (in the Baby Jane tradition) that Turner appeared in. This project is usually given little import in other treatments of her filmography, but with Always, Lanait gets almost a full chapter. The author chronicles everything from the year long inception of the project to the shimmering star’s on set battles to the aborted reactions to this much troubled film upon its official release.
As with similar writings, this is a quick read and may be worth exploring for genre fans for this particular aspect alone.
Horror Hall of Fame:
Turner was a glimmering presence in the 1941 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (and she always spoke fondly of co-stars Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman for instilling her with a sense of professional confidence). She also gave breakdowns a groovy, psychedelic glow in the 1969 cult classic The Big Cube.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!